Clippers star Kawhi Leonard did not participate in practice Monday because he was receiving treatment on the sprained right knee that has sidelined him the last two games of the team’s first-round series against the Phoenix Suns, coach Tyronn Lue said.
Asked whether receiving treatment left open the door for a return in Tuesday’s Game 5 in Phoenix, Lue said that “there’s always a possibility.”
Phoenix leads the seven-game series 3-1.
It was not until before Game 3 that the Clippers acknowledged Leonard had injured the knee in the series opener and aggravated it in Game 2. He has watched Clippers losses in the third and fourth games of the series from the sideline.
Lue dismissed criticism Leonard has received from fans and some media who have associated his sitting out to the team’s plan to limit his workload throughout the regular season.
“You can’t listen to the outside noise, which I never do anyway, but he’s definitely hurt,” Lue said. “Like, this is not load management where he’s taking time off. He’s shown in his past that he’s played through injuries in the playoffs.
“If it’s something that he can’t play through, then it has to be pretty serious. We’re not talking about he’s sitting out because of load management or he’s tired or nothing like that. It’s an actual thing.”
Paul George, whose own right knee sprain has sidelined him since late March, was working out before practice Monday, driving and shooting in one-on-one drills against an assistant coach with more intensity than during a workout last week. There is no indication whether he will be available entering Tuesday’s potential elimination game, either.
Lue, center Mason Plumlee and wing Terance Mann said the Clippers have not lost confidence. Asked whether Lue still has adjustments to make given the roster’s depleted depth, he smiled.
“We got a couple,” Lue said.
Without Leonard and George, the team has made 48% of its field goals and shot 37% on three-pointers the last two games, to go with 13 turnovers. Shifting on the fly an offense tailored around Leonard and George has been “a lot,” Plumlee said.
“You adjust to them, teams doubling Kawhi, teams putting a lot of attention to Paul, and now it’s a very different-looking offense,” Plumlee said.
“But you know, we’ve got older guys. We’ve got guys who have played in different systems, so you can make the most of it. We have enough. We have enough to go win. We have enough to go win the whole series. We just have to go get one in Phoenix and then go from there.”